Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has reassured Stephen Ireland that he remains part of his plans.
Ireland's long-term future at City has been the subject of speculation in recent months after failing to hold down a regular place in the side under Mancini.
The former Republic of Ireland international has made only 15 league starts this season, and he is again likely to be on the bench for Sunday's trip to Fulham.
Ireland's lack of action has perplexed some fans who believe he should be in the side given his ability to unlock defences and score goals.
But Mancini insists Ireland is an important player for the team and play a key role until the end of the season.
"I have a lot of respect for Stephen Ireland because he is a good player," said Mancini.
"In the week of the Chelsea game he had an injury. But now he has recovered and is ready to play.
"I have a number of options in midfield and Stephen is an important player for us."
Meanwhile, Javier Garrido is hoping to earn a regular run in the side to fill in for the injured Wayne Bridge.
Bridge faces a month out after undergoing a hernia operation and Garrido is expected to replace him at left-back at Fulham.
"Hopefully I will get my chance to be involved in the team," Garrido told the club's official website.
"I did not play for a while when Mark Hughes was here but when Roberto took charge he gave me an opportunity almost straight away.
"That gave me a lot of confidence and I think that showed through in my performances. "
FocusGarrido knows the importance of victory at Fulham as City chase a top-four spot and he wants his side to show more consistency if they are to achieve their ambition of qualifying for the Champions League.
"They try and play good football and so do we, but they have definitely had the edge over the past three or four seasons," added Garrido.
"But there is no reason we can't win this game - we need a victory to keep the pressure on the teams around us.
"I think every team who plays us now wants to beat us because of what has happened to the club in the past couple of years.
"I think sometimes we have had a stronger mentality against the best teams and the results against Arsenal and Chelsea have proved that to be true.
"But we have to have that same focus against every team we play if we are to finish in the top four."